The Oakland Athletics are a professional baseball team based in Oakland, California. The Athletics are a member of the Western Division of Major League Baseball's American League. From to the present, the Athletics have played in the Oakland Coliseum.
The "Athletics" name originates from the late 19th century "athletic clubs", specifically the Athletic of Philadelphia. They are most prominently nicknamed "the A's", in reference to the blackletter "A", a trademark of the team and the old Athletic of Philadelphia. This has gained very prominent use, and in some circles is used more frequently than the full "Athletics" name. They are also known as "the White Elephants" or simply "the Elephants", in reference to then New York Giants' manager John McGraw's calling the team a "white elephant". This was embraced by the team, who then made a white elephant the team's mascot, and often incorporated it into the logo or sleeve patches.
One of the American League's eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in . Then the Philadelphia Athletics, the team moved to Kansas City in and became the Kansas City Athletics. It was not until that the team moved to Oakland.
The Athletics' name originated in the term "Athletic Club" for local gentlemen's clubs—dates to 1860 when an amateur team, the Athletic (Club) of Philadelphia, was formed. (A famous image from that era, at left, published in Harper's Weekly in 1866, shows the Athletic players dressed in uniforms displaying the familiar blackletter "A" on the front). The team later turned professional through 1875, becoming a charter member of the National League in 1876, but were expelled from the N.L. after one season. A later version of the Athletics played in the American Association from 1882–1891.
The team name is typically pronounced "Ath-LET-ics", but their longtime team owner/manager Connie Mack called them by the old-fashioned colloquial Irish pronunciation "Ath-uh-LET-ics". Newspaper writers also often referred to the team as the Mackmen during their Philadelphia days, in honor of their patriarch.
Though for a time as a Kansas City team, the "A"s wore "Kansas City" on their road jerseys and an interlocking "KC" on the cap, upon moving to Oakland the "A" cap emblem was restored, although in 1970 an "apostrophe-s" was added to the cap and uniform emblem to reflect the fact that then-team owner Charles O. Finley was in the process of officially changing the team's name to the "A's".
Currently, the team wears home uniforms with "Athletics" spelled out in script writing and road uniforms with "Oakland" spelled out in script writing, with the cap logo consisting of the traditional "A" with "apostrophe-s". The home cap is green with a gold bill and white lettering, while the road cap is all green with gold lettering.
The nickname "A's" has long been used interchangeably with "Athletics", dating to the team's early days when headline writers wanted a way to shorten the name. From 1972 through 1980, the team nickname was officially "Oakland A's," although, during that time, the Commissioner's Trophy, given out annually to the winner of baseball's world series, still listed the team's name as the "Oakland Athletics" on the gold-plated pennant representing the Oakland franchise. According to Bill Libby's Book, Charlie O and the Angry A's, owner Charlie O. Finley banned the word "Athletics" from the club's name because he felt that name was too closely associated with former Philadelphia Athletics owner Connie Mack, and he wanted the name "Oakland A's" to become just as closely associated with himself. The name also vaguely suggested the name of the old minor league Oakland Oaks, which were alternatively called the "Acorns". New owner Walter Haas restored the official name to "Athletics" in 1981, but retained the nickname "A's" for marketing purposes. At first, the word "Athletics" was restored only to the club's logo, underneath the much larger stylized-"A" that had come to represent the team since the early days. By 1987, however, the word returned, in script lettering, to the front of the team's jerseys.
The A's are the only MLB team to wear white cleats, both at home and on the road, another tradition dating back to the Finley ownership.
The elephant was retired as team mascot in 1963 by then-owner Charles O. Finley in favor of a Missouri mule. In 1988, the elephant was restored as the symbol of the Athletics and currently adorns the left sleeve of home and road uniforms. The Elephant Mascot returned briefly in the mid eighties, under the name, Harry Elephante. In 1997, the elephant returned taking its current form, Stomper.
In 1901, Johnson created new franchises in the east and eliminated some franchises in the West. (Seeks to snare Duffy of Boston, Chicago Daily Tribune, January 29, 1901, pg. 9.) Philadelphia seems to have been a new franchise created to compete with the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies. Former catcher Connie Mack was recruited to manage the club. Mack in turn persuaded Phillies minority owner Ben Shibe as well as others to invest in the team, which would be called the Philadelphia Athletics. He himself bought a 25 percent interest. The other 1901 American League teams included the newly-created Baltimore Orioles (now the New York Yankees) and Boston Americans (now Red Sox), as well as a Kansas City franchise relocated to Washington as the Senators (now the Minnesota Twins) and previous members the Chicago White Stockings (now White Sox), Cleveland Blues (now Indians), Detroit Tigers, and Milwaukee Brewers (later the St. Louis Browns and now the Baltimore Orioles).
The new league recruited many of its players from the existing National League, persuading them to “jump” to the A.L. in defiance of their N.L. contracts. One of them was second baseman Nap Lajoie, formerly of the crosstown Phllies. He won the A.L.'s first batting title with a .426 batting average, still an A.L. record. The Athletics as well as the 7 other A.L. teams received a jolt when, on April 21, 1902, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated Lajoie's contract with the Athletics, and ordered him back to the Phillies. This order, though, was only enforceable in the state of Pennsylvania. Lajoie was sold to Cleveland, but was kept out of road games in Philadelphia until the National Agreement was signed between the two leagues in 1903.
In 1909, the A's moved into the majors' first concrete-and-steel ballpark, Shibe Park. This remains the last time in franchise history where a new ballpark was built specifically for the A's. Later in the decade, Mack bought another 25 percent of the team's stock to become a full partner with Shibe. Shibe ceded Mack full control over the baseball side while retaining control over the business side.
Business took a downturn in 1914. The heavily favored Athletics lost the 1914 World Series to the "Miracle" Boston Braves in a four-game sweep. Miracles often have two sides, and for a few years this "miracle" wrought disaster on the A's. Mack traded, sold or released most of the team's star players soon after, and the team fell into a lengthy slump. In his book To Every Thing a Season, Bruce Kuklick points out that there were suspicions that the A's had thrown the Series, or at least "laid down", perhaps in protest of Mack's frugal ways. Mack himself alluded to that rumor years later, but also debunked it, asserting that factions within the team along with the allure of a third major league, the Federal League had distracted the team. The facts at least in part support Mack's statement.
The Federal League had been formed to begin play in 1914. As the A.L. had done 13 years before, the new league raided existing A.L. and N.L. teams for players. Several of his best players, including Bender, had already decided to jump before the World Series. Mack refused to match the offers of the F.L. teams, preferring to let the "prima donnas" go and rebuild with younger (and less expensive) players. The result was a swift and near-total collapse, a "first-to-worst" situation. The Athletics went from a 99–53 (.651) record and a pennant in 1914 to a record of 43–109 (.283) and 8th (last) place in 1915, and then to 36–117 (.235, still a modern major-league low) in 1916. The team would finish in last place every year after that until 1922 and would not contend again until 1925. Shibe died in 1922, and his sons took over the business side, leaving the baseball side to Mack. By this time Mack had cemented his famous image of the tall, gaunt and well-dressed man (he never wore a uniform during his managerial career, preferring a business suit, tie and fedora; a not-uncommon practice for managers in his day) waving his players into position with a scorecard (since no one is allowed on the baseball field, during a game, without a proper uniform).
As it turned out, this would be the Athletics' last hurrah in Philadelphia. Mack again sold or traded his best players in order to reduce expenses. The Great Depression was well under way, and declining attendance had drastically reduced the team’s revenues. The construction of a spite fence at Shibe Park, blocking the view from nearby buildings, only served to irritate potential paying fans. However, the consequences did not become apparent for a few more years, as the team finished second in 1932 and third in 1933.
As a result, the A's went into a funk that lasted for over 30 years, through three cities. Save for a fifth-place finish in 1944, they finished in last or next-to-last place every year from 1935 to 1946. In 1936, Shibe's last son died, and Mack became the Athletics' sole owner. Even as bad as the club got during this time (some believe that many of his teams were major-league in name only), he had no intention of firing himself. Long after most other teams had hired a general manager, he remained essentially a one-man band, making all baseball decisions as well as leading the team on the field. To the surprise of most people in baseball, Mack managed not only to get out of the cellar in 1947, but actually finished with a winning record for the first time in 14 years. They contended for much of 1948 and 1949, only to collapse back to last place again in 1950.
The 1950 season would be the 88-year-old Mack’s 50th and last as A’s manager, a North American professional sports record that has never been threatened. He was reportedly pushed out by his sons from his first marriage, Roy and Earle. During that year the team wore uniforms trimmed in blue and gold, in honor of the Golden Jubilee of "The Grand Old Man of Baseball."
In spite of the turmoil, some Athletics players shone on the field. In Gus Zernial led the American League with 33 home runs, 129 RBI, 68 extra-base hits, and 17 outfield assists; in he swatted 29 homers and bagged 100 RBI, and hit 42 homers and drove in 108 runs in . Also, in 1952, left-handed pitcher Bobby Shantz won 24 games and was named the league's Most Valuable Player, and Ferris Fain won AL batting championships in 1951 (with a .344 average) and 1952 (with a .320 average). His 1952 batting crown remains the last time an Athletic has led the league in hitting.
Though last-minute offers were put on the table to buy the Athletics to keep them in Philadelphia, including one made by a group led by Chicago insurance tycoon Charles O. Finley, the American League owners were determined to "solve the Philadelphia problem" by moving the team elsewhere. On October 12, 1954, the owners approved the sale of the Athletics to another Chicago businessman, Arnold Johnson, who moved the team to Kansas City for the 1955 season.
From the start, it was clear that Johnson was motivated solely by profit, not because of any regard for the baseball fans of Kansas City. He had long been a business associate of Yankee owners Dan Topping, Larry MacPhail and Del Webb. He had bought Yankee Stadium in 1953, though the league owners forced Johnson to sell the property before acquiring the Athletics. He'd also bought Blues Stadium in Kansas City, home of the Yankees' top farm team, the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. After Johnson got permission to move the A's to Kansas City, he sold Blues Stadium to the city, who renamed it Kansas City Municipal Stadium and leased it back to Johnson. The lease gave Johnson a three-year escape clause if the team failed to draw one million or more customers per season. The subsequent lease signed in 1960 also contained an escape clause if the team failed to draw 850,000 per season. Johnson was still head of the company that managed Yankee Stadium; Webb's construction company rebuilt Municipal Stadium to meet major-league specifications; and Johnson held a mortgage of the Yankees'. (See The Baseball Hall of Shame for details.)
Rumors abounded that Johnson's real motive was to operate the Athletics in Kansas City for a few years, then move the team to Los Angeles. Whatever Johnson's motives were, the issue soon became moot. The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season, thereby precluding any move there by the Athletics (although the Los Angeles Angels would begin play in the AL in 1961). Moreover, on March 10, 1960, Arnold Johnson died at the age of 53.
Whatever the concern about the move to Kansas City, fans turned out in record numbers for the era. In 1955, the new Kansas City Athletics drew 1,393,054 to Municipal Stadium, a club record easily surpassing the previous record of 945,076 in 1948 (To put this figure in perspective, in 1955 only the New York Yankees and Milwaukee Braves had higher home attendance than did the A's). What no one realized at the time was that number would never be approached again while the team was in Kansas City, and would remain the club record for attendance until 1982—the Athletics’ 15th season in Oakland.
Though Johnson promised the fans that the trades would soon bring a world championship to Kansas City, it did not work that way. The A's won 63 games in 1955, only the fifth time in the last 20 years they managed to win more than 60 games. However, they never contended past June in the six years of Johnson's ownership, and finished either last or next-to-last each season. Attendance declined, with fans and even other clubs charging that the A’s were little more than a Yankee farm team at the major league level, citing Johnson's pre-existing cozy relationship with Topping and Webb. This obvious conflict of interest was merely winked at by the rulers of the game at that time. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the Yankees went into decline as soon as the A's stopped sending them talent. Johnson once gushed to The Sporting News, "I'd pay a million dollars for Mickey Mantle!" Assuming he had a million to give, that was a safe offer, as there was no chance the Yanks were going to trade their superstar to Kansas City.
The trade no one ever forgot was the one made after the 1959 season, when the A’s sent young right fielder Roger Maris to New York for his aging counterpart, Hank Bauer, in a seven-player deal. However, there were others. The Yankees brought up a promising young pitcher, Ralph Terry, in 1956, but were reluctant to use him in critical situations. So, in June 1957, they traded him to the A's in an eight-player deal. After getting nearly two years of experience facing A.L. batters, Terry apparently was ready to return. In May 1959, the Yankees sent Jerry Lumpe and two washed-up pitchers to the Athletics for Terry. Once "home," Terry became a 20-game winner for New York.
A detailed account of this period is The Kansas City A's and The Wrong Half of the Yankees, by Jeff Katz, published by Maple Street Press.
Finley immediately hired Frank Lane, a veteran baseball man with a reputation as a prolific trader, as general manager. Lane began engineering trades with several other teams, including the Yankees, the bus-burning stunt notwithstanding. Lane lasted less than one year, being fired during the 1961 season. He was temporarily replaced by Pat Friday, whose sole qualification for the job was that he managed one of Finley's insurance offices. On paper, Friday remained general manager until Carl A. Finley Jr. took over as general manager in 1963, when he was replaced by Hank Peters. After only a year, Peters was fired, and the team had no formal general manager until 1981. In fact, Friday and Peters were mere figureheads. With the firing of Lane in 1961, Finley effectively became a one-man band as owner, president and de facto general manager, and would remain so for the duration of his ownership.
Finley made further changes to the team’s uniforms. The Philadelphia Athletics wore blue and white or black and gray outfits through most of their history; ; in the last years in Philadelphia and the first in Kansas City, the team used a red, white and navy blue scheme. In 1963, Finley changed the team’s colors to “Kelly Green, Fort Knox Gold and Wedding Gown White” (which, although the kelly green was replaced by a darker, forest green shade in 1981, essentially remain the team colors today) and replaced Mack's elephant with a Missouri mule—not just a cartoon logo, but a real mule, which he named after himself: “Charlie O, the Mule.” He also began phasing out the team name "Athletics" in favor of simply, "A's." Some of his other changes—for instance, his repeated attempts to mimic Yankee Stadium's famous right-field "home run porch"—were less successful. AL President Joe Cronin ordered Finley to remove the fence which duplicated the 296-foot right-field foul line in Yankee Stadium. Smarting from this draconian ukase, Finley had his announcer comment "That would have been a home run in Yankee Stadium" whenever a fly ball passed the limit in Municipal Stadium's outfield.
While the A's were still dreadful in the first eight years of Finley's ownership, he began to lay the groundwork for a future contender. Finley poured resources into the minor league system for the first time in the history of the franchise. Mack never spent money on developing a farm system, which was a major reason his teams fell from contenders to cellar-dwellers so quickly. When Johnson bought the team in 1955, the A's had only three full-time scouts. While Johnson tried to make improvements, he wasn't willing to pay the bonuses necessary to get top talent. However, Finley steadily built up the team's farm system until by 1966, it was one of the best in the majors. He was assisted by the creation of the baseball draft in 1965, which forced young prospects to sign with the team that drafted them—at the price offered by the team—if they wanted to play professional baseball. Thus, Finley was spared from having to compete with wealthier teams for top talent. The Athletics, owners of the worst record in the American League in 1964, had the first pick in the first draft, selecting Rick Monday on June 8, 1965.
On September 18, 1962, after less than two full years of ownership, Finley asked the A.L. owners for permission to move the Athletics to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. His request was denied by a 9–1 vote. In January 1964, he signed an agreement to move the A’s to Louisville, promising to change the team's name to the "Kentucky Athletics". (Other names suggested for the team were the "Louisville Sluggers" and "Kentucky Colonels," which would've allowed the team to keep the letters "KC" on their uniforms.) By another 9–1 vote his request was denied. Six weeks later, by the same 9–1 margin, the A.L. owners denied Finley's request to move the team to Oakland.
These requests came as no surprise, as impending moves to these cities, as well as to Atlanta, Milwaukee, New Orleans, San Diego and Seattle— all of which Finley had considered as new homes for the Athletics — had long been afloat. He also threatened to move the A's to a "cow pasture" in Peculiar, Missouri, complete with temporary grandstands. Not surprisingly, attendance tailed off. Finally, American League President Joe Cronin persuaded Finley to sign a four-year lease with Municipal Stadium.
Then on October 18, 1967, A.L. owners at last gave Finley permission to move the Athletics to Oakland for the 1968 season. According to some reports, Cronin promised Finley that he could move the team after the 1967 season as an incentive to sign the new lease with Municipal Stadium. The move came in spite of approval by voters in Jackson County, Missouri of a bond issue for a brand new baseball stadium (the eventual Kauffman Stadium) to be completed in 1973. Then-U.S. Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri blasted Finley on the floor of the Senate, calling him "one of the most disreputable characters ever to enter the American sports scene,” and said Oakland was “the luckiest city since Hiroshima.” When Symington threatened to have baseball's antitrust exemption revoked, the owners responded with a hasty round of expansion. Kansas City was awarded an American League expansion team, the Royals. They were initially slated to begin play in 1971. However, Symington was not willing to have Kansas City wait three years for another team, and renewed his threat to have baseball's antitrust exemption revoked unless the teams began play in . The owners complied.
During the Johnson years, the Athletics' home attendance averaged just under one million per season, respectable numbers for the era, especially in light of the team's dreadful on-field performance. In contrast, during the years of Finley's ownership, the team averaged under 680,000 per year in Kansas City. According to baseball writer Rob Neyer (a native of the Kansas City area), this was largely because Finley tried to sell baseball tickets like he sold insurance. Just before the 1960 season, he mailed brochures to 600,000 people in the area, and only made $20,000 in ticket sales. During their 13-year stay in Kansas City, the Athletics were arguably one of the worst teams in baseball history, finishing last or next-to-last place in 10 of those years. Their overall record was 829–1,224, for a winning percentage of .404.
Everything finally came together for the A's as the 1970s dawned. After another second-place finish in 1970, the A’s won the A.L. West title in 1971 for their first postseason appearance of any kind since 1931. However, they lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series. In 1972, the A's won their first league pennant since 1931 and faced the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.
That year, the A's began wearing solid green or solid gold jerseys, with contrasting white pants, at a time when most other teams wore all-white uniforms at home and all-grey ones on the road. Similar to more colorful amateur softball uniforms, they were considered a radical departure for their time. Furthermore, in conjunction with a Moustache Day promotion, Finley offered $500 to any player who grew a moustache by Father's Day, at a time when every other team forbade facial hair. When Father's Day arrived, every member of the team collected a bonus. The 1972 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds was termed “The Hairs vs. the Big Squares,” as the Reds wore more traditional uniforms and required their players to be clean-shaven and short-haired. A contemporaneous book about the team was called Moustache Gang. The A's seven-game victory over the heavily favored Reds gave the team its first World Series Championship since 1930.
They defended their title in 1973 and 1974. Unlike Mack's champions, who thoroughly dominated their opposition, the A’s teams of the 1970s played well enough to win their division (which was usually known as the "American League Least" during this time). They then defeated teams that had won more games during the regular season with good pitching, good defense, and clutch hitting. Finley called this team the “Swingin’ A’s.” Players such as Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Bert Campaneris, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, and Vida Blue formed the nucleus of these teams.
The players often said in later years that they played so well as a team due to their universal dislike for Finley. For instance, Finley threatened to pack Jackson off to the minors in 1969 after Jackson hit 47 homers; Commissioner Bowie Kuhn had to intervene in their contract dispute. Kuhn intervened again after Blue won the A.L. Cy Young Award in 1971 and Finley threatened to send him to the minors. Finley's tendency for micromanaging his team actually dated to the team's stay in Kansas City. Among the more notable incidents during this time was a near-mutiny in 1967; Finley responded by releasing the A's best hitter, Ken Harrelson, who promptly signed with the Red Sox and helped lead them to the pennant.
The Athletics' victory over the New York Mets in the 1973 Series was marred by Finley's antics. Finley forced Mike Andrews to sign a false affidavit saying he was injured after the reserve second baseman committed two consecutive errors in the 12th inning of the A's Game Two loss to the Mets. When other team members, manager Dick Williams, and virtually the entire viewing public rallied to Andrews' defense, Kuhn forced Finley to back down. However, there was nothing that said the A's had to play Andrews. Andrews entered Game 4 in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter to a standing ovation from sympathetic Mets fans. He promptly grounded out, and Finley ordered him benched for the remainder of the Series. Andrews never played another major league game. As it was, the incident allowed the Mets, a team that went but 82–79 during the regular season, to go seven games before losing to a superior team. Williams was so disgusted by the affair that he resigned after the Series. Finley retaliated by vetoing Williams' attempt to become manager of the Yankees. Finley claimed that since Williams still owed Oakland the last year of his contract, he could not manage anywhere else. Finley relented later in 1974 and allowed Williams to take over as manager of the California Angels.
After the Athletics' victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1974 Series (under Alvin Dark), pitcher Catfish Hunter filed a grievance, claiming that the team had violated its contract with Hunter by failing to make timely payment on an insurance policy during the 1974 season as called for. On December 13, 1974, arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled in Hunter’s favor. As a result, Hunter became a free agent, and signed a contract with the Yankees for the 1975 season. Despite the loss of Hunter, the A’s repeated as A.L. West champions in 1975, but lost the ALCS to Boston in a 3-game sweep.
At the end of the 1977 season, Finley attempted to trade Blue to the Reds for a player of lesser stature and cash, but Kuhn vetoed the deal, claiming that it was tantamount to a fire sale of the star pitcher similar to the sales he voided during 1976. He also claimed that adding Blue to the Reds' already formidable pitching staff would make a mockery of the National League West race. Later, the Commissioner approved a trade of relief pitcher Doug Bair to the Reds in a deal that resembled a true trade. At the same time, Blue was traded across the bay to the San Francisco Giants in a multi-player trade that likewise received the Commissioner's blessing.
After three dismal seasons on the field and at the gate, the team started to gel again. In a masterstroke, Finley hired Billy Martin to manage the young team, led by new young stars Rickey Henderson, Mike Norris, Tony Armas, and Dwayne Murphy . Martin made believers of his young charges, “Billyball” was used to market the team, and the Athletics finished second in 1980.
However, during that same season Finley's wife sought a divorce and would not accept part of a baseball team in a property settlement. With most of his money tied up in the A's or his insurance empire, Finley had to sell the team. Though Finley found a buyer in businessman Marvin Davis, who would have moved the Athletics to Denver, the tentative deal hit a snag when the Raiders announced their move to Los Angeles. Oakland and Alameda County officials, not wanting to be held responsible for losing Oakland's status as a big-league city in its own right, refused to let Finley break the lease with the Coliseum. Finley then looked to local buyers, selling the A's to San Francisco clothing manufacturer Walter A. Haas, Jr., president of Levi Strauss & Co. prior to the 1981 season. It would not be the first time that the Raiders directly affected the A's future.
During the 15 years of Haas' ownership, the Athletics became one of baseball’s most successful teams at the gate, drawing 2,900,217 in 1990, still the club record for single season attendance, as well as on the field. Average annual home attendance during those years (excluding the strike years of 1981 and 1994) was over 1.9 million.
Haas set about changing the team's image. He ditched Charlie O. as the team mascot, and pictures of Connie Mack and other greats from the Philadelphia days appeared in the team office. The traditional team name "Athletics" was restored immediately, with the new ownership group formally known as "The Oakland Athletics Baseball Company." While the team colors remained green, gold, and white, the garish Kelly green was replaced with a more subdued forest green. After a 23-year hiatus, the elephant was restored as the club mascot in 1988. The script "Athletics," which had adorned home and road jerseys from 1954-1960, was returned to home jerseys in 1987.
Under the Haas ownership, the minor league system was rebuilt, which bore fruition later that decade as José Canseco (1986), Mark McGwire (1987), and Walt Weiss (1988) were chosen as A.L. Rookies of the Year. During the 1986 season, Tony La Russa was hired as the Athletics’ manager, a post he held until the end of 1995. In 1987, La Russa’s first full year as manager, the team finished at 81–81, its best record in 7 seasons. Beginning in 1988, the Athletics won the A.L. pennant three years in a row. Reminiscent of their Philadelphia predecessors, this A’s team finished with the best record of any team in the major leagues during all 3 years, winning 104 (1988), 99 (1989), and 103 (1990) games, featuring such stars as McGwire, Canseco, Weiss, Rickey Henderson, Carney Lansford, Dave Stewart, and Dennis Eckersley.
Regular season dominance led to some success in the post-season. Their lone World Series championship of the era was a four-game sweep of the cross-bay rival San Francisco Giants in the 1989 World Series. Unfortunately for the A's, their sweep of the Giants was overshadowed by the Loma Prieta earthquake that occurred at the start of Game 3 before a national television audience. This forced the remaining games to be delayed for several days. When play resumed, the atmosphere was dominated more by a sense of relief than celebration by baseball fans. Heavily favored Athletics teams lost the World Series in both 1988, to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and in 1990, to the Cincinnati Reds. The latter was a shocking four-game sweep reminiscent of the A’s loss to the Boston Braves 76 years earlier. The team began declining, winning the A.L. West championship in 1992 (but losing to Toronto in the ALCS), then finishing last in 1993.
The Schott-Hofmann ownership allocated resources to building and maintaining a strong minor league system while almost always refusing to pay the going rate to keep star players on the team once they become free agents. Perhaps as a result, the A’s at the turn of the 21st century were a team that usually finished at or near the top of the A.L. West Division, but could not advance beyond the first round of playoffs. The Athletics made the post season playoffs for four straight years, 2000–2003, but lost their first round (best 3-out-of-5) series in each case, 3 games to 2. In two of those years (2001 against New York and 2003 against Boston), the Athletics won the first two games of the series, only to lose the next three straight and hence the playoffs. In 2004, the A's missed the playoffs altogether, losing the final series of the season—and the divisional title to the Anaheim Angels.
One of the most exciting periods in Oakland history can be characterized simply as “The Big Three.” Consisting of young talented pitchers Tim Hudson(R), Mark Mulder(L), and Barry Zito(L). Between the years of 1999 and 2006, these young cannon arms helped the Athletics to emerge into a perennial powerhouse in the American League West. They gave the Athletics a 1-2-3 punch to add to a potent lineup and instill fear into the hearts of opposing batters and managers. The Big three combined to have a collective record of 261 – 131 with the Athletics. However, with such promising young talent comes a hefty price tag, and as a small market organization, the Athletics could not afford to keep this trio. General Manager Billy Beane would use the three as trade bait and rebuilding blocks for the future of the franchise, just one in a series of rebuilding efforts. The young Athletics also featured talented infielders, Eric Chavez, Jason Giambi, and Miguel Tejada. After becoming free agents, Giambi left for the New York Yankees after the 2001 season, while Tejada departed for the Baltimore Orioles after the 2003 season.
The general manager of the Athletics, Billy Beane, has become notable in recent years for Michael Lewis's publicization of Beane's novel approach to business decisions and scouting referred to as Moneyball, both the title of the book, and hence the school of thought to management. The Athletics organization began redefining the way that major league baseball teams evaluate player talent. They began filling their system with players who did not possess traditionally valued baseball "tools" of throwing, fielding, hitting, hitting for power and running. Instead, they drafted for unconventional statistical prowess: on-base percentage for hitters (rather than batting average) and strikeout/walk ratios for pitchers (rather than velocity). These undervalued stats came cheaply. With the sixth-lowest payroll in baseball in 2002, the Oakland Athletics won an American League best 103 games. They spent $41M that season, while the Yankees, who also won 103 games, spent $126M. The Athletics have continually succeeded at winning, and defying market economics, keeping their payroll near the bottom of the league. For example, after the 2004 season, in which the A's placed second in their division, Beane shocked many by breaking up the Big Three, trading Tim Hudson to the Atlanta Braves and Mark Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals. To many, the trades appeared bizarre, in that the two pitchers were seen to be at or near the top of their game; however, the decision was perfectly in line with Beane's business model as outlined in Moneyball. The Mulder trade, to many experts' surprise, turned into a steal for the Athletics, as little-known starter Dan Haren ended up pitching far better for Oakland than Mulder has in St. Louis.
In 2005, many pundits picked the Athletics to finish last as a result of Beane's dismantling of the Big Three. At first, the experts appeared vindicated, as the A's were mired in last place on May 31 with a 19–32 (.373) won-loss record. After that the team began to gel, playing at a .622 clip for the remainder of the season, eventually finishing 88–74 (.543), seven games behind the newly-renamed Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and for many weeks seriously contending for the AL West crown.
Pitcher Huston Street was voted the A.L. Rookie of the Year in 2005, the second year in a row an Athletic won that award, shortstop Bobby Crosby having won in 2004. For the fifth straight season, third baseman Eric Chavez won the A.L. Gold Glove Award at that position.
The 2006 season brought the A's back to the postseason after a two year absence. After finishing the season at 93-69, four games ahead of the Angels, the A's were considered the underdog against the highly favored Minnesota Twins. The A's swept the series 3-0 however, despite having to start on the road and losing second baseman Mark Ellis, who sustained a broken finger after getting hit by a pitch in the second game. Their victory was short-lived though, as the A's were swept 4-0 by the Detroit Tigers. Manager Ken Macha was fired by Billy Beane on October 16th, four days after their loss in the 2006 American League Championship Series. Beane cited a disconnect between him and his players as well as a general unhappiness among the team as the reason for his sudden departure.
Macha was replaced by bench coach and former major league catcher Bob Geren. Following the 2006 season, the A's also lost ace Barry Zito to the Giants due to free agency. They also lost their DH and MVP candidate Frank Thomas to free agency but filled his role with future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza for 2007. Piazza, a lifetime National League player, agreed to become a full-time DH for the first time in his career.
On April 24, just weeks after playing against him on the Blue Jays, Frank Thomas re-signed with the A's after being released by the Jays after a slow start. On July 8, the A's were involved in a blockbuster trade, dealing Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin to the Chicago Cubs for Sean Gallagher, Josh Donaldson, Eric Patterson, and Matt Murton. Then on July 17, the A's traded Joe Blanton to the Philadelphia Phillies for three minor leaguers.
Then, in 1995, a deal was struck whereby the Raiders would move back to Oakland for the 1995 season. The agreement called for the expansion of the Coliseum to 63,026 seats. The bucolic view of the Oakland foothills that baseball spectators enjoyed was replaced with a jarring view of an outfield grandstand contemptuously referred to as "Mount Davis" after Raiders' owner Al Davis. Because construction was not finished by the start of the 1996 season, the Athletics were forced to play their first six-game homestand at 9,300-seat Cashman Field in Las Vegas.
Although "official" capacity was stated to be 43,662 for baseball, seats were sometimes sold in Mount Davis as well, pushing "real" capacity to the area of 60,000. The ready availability of tickets on game day made season tickets a tough sell, while crowds as high as 30,000 often seemed sparse in such a venue. On December 21, 2005, the Athletics announced that seats in the Coliseum's third deck would not be sold for the 2006 season, but would instead be covered with a tarp, and that tickets would no longer be sold in Mount Davis under any circumstances. That effectively reduced capacity to 34,077, making the Coliseum the smallest stadium in Major League Baseball.
Since the expansion of Coliseum seating, ownership has stated that a new and smaller baseball-only facility is necessary to ensure the economic viability of the Athletics. In 2005, owner Wolff made public his plans to build a 35,000-seat baseball-only stadium not far from the present facility, as part of a larger commercial and residential development. However, those plans never moved past the nascent stage, in part because the cost of the renovations to the Coliseum made public funding for a new ballpark too politically risky. After the city of Oakland failed to make any progress toward a stadium the A's began contemplating a move to the Warm Springs district of suburban Fremont just north of the Santa Clara County line in the vicinity of San Jose on a parcel of land just north of Mission Blvd currently owned by Cisco Systems. Fremont is about 25 miles south of Oakland.
Finally, on November 7, 2006, many media sources announced the Athletics would be leaving Oakland as early as 2010 for a new stadium in the city of Fremont which was confirmed the next day by the Fremont City Council. The team will be playing in what is planned to be called Cisco Field, a 36,000 seat baseball only facility. The proposed ballpark would be part of a larger "ballpark village" which would include retail and residential development. While the existing Oakland Coliseum is easily accessible via public transit on BART, the new stadium does not lie near the existing BART lines, and could be problematic for those not wanting to drive to the stadium. However, the new stadium site does have direct access to both Amtrak's Capital Corridor train system and the Altamont Commuter Express rail lines. BART already has plans for a Warm Springs expansion station which, via a people mover or shuttle, would make the new stadium much more accessible by public transit as well. In addition, Wolff has stated the transit to and from the stadium is a prime concern of his and that it will be addressed. Speculation abounds that, when the move is made, the geographical part of the team's name might change accordingly.
Before the 2008 season began, the organization announced the reopening of the section of upper deck behind home plate in an "All You Can Eat" offer. Tickets are sold at $35 each, in which fans can enjoy as much as food as they like. Meanwhile, it is reported the completion date for new stadium, Cisco Field, will be likely delayed a year to 2012.
During the 1970s, the A's established a strong rivalry with the Kansas City Royals (then an A.L. West team), fueled by the Kansas City fans' resentment of the A's move to Oakland in 1968, and by the rivalry of the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs football teams. Arguably, the Athletics' biggest American League rivals in recent years have been the teams that were their old traditional rivals from decades ago in Philadelphia—the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox—if only because of the hard-fought playoff games between the teams.
The A's have also established a strong geographic rivalry with the San Francisco Giants. This rivalry is interesting in that it is acceptable in Northern California to identify oneself as a fan of both baseball teams. During the 1989 series, caps were sold with both team's insignias on the front, and the respective colors making up half the hat. The teams faced each other in the 1989 World Series, which the A's won in a four-game sweep, interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake. After a decade-plus of interleague play, the A's hold a 38-30 edge against the Giants head-to-head through June 29, 2008 -- including a 16-8 record against the Giants during the 2005-08 seasons. In addition, the A's have won four World Series since moving to Oakland in 1968, while the Giants have not won a World Series since moving to San Francisco in 1958.
The A's have a history with the Minnesota Twins as well. Between 1987-92, the A's and Twins combined to win six consecutive American League West titles and reach the World Series five times. Oakland finished second to Minnesota in 1987, while the Twins placed second to the Division champion A's the following year. Recent events that have taken place between the A's and the Minnesota Twins suggest a renewing of an old rivalry. In 2002 the Twins snapped the A's 20-game win streak. The Twins also beat the heavily favored A's that year in the ALDS. The A's got revenge in 2006 when they swept the favored Twins out of the post season, defeating their two-time Cy Young ace Johan Santana in Game One.
|2000||Oakland Athletics||91-70||.565||1st in AL West||Lost ALDS to New York Yankees, 2-3.|
|2001||Oakland Athletics||102-60||.630||2nd in AL West#||Lost ALDS to New York Yankees, 2-3.|
|2002||Oakland Athletics||103-59||.636||1st in AL West-Manager-Art Howe||Lost ALDS to Minnesota Twins, 2-3.|
|2003||Oakland Athletics||96-66||.593||1st in AL West Manager-Ken Macha||Lost ALDS to Boston Red Sox, 2-3.|
|2004||Oakland Athletics||91-71||.562||2nd in AL West Manager-Ken Macha|
|2005||Oakland Athletics||88-74||.543||2nd in AL West -Manager-Ken Macha|
|2006||Oakland Athletics||93-69||.574||1st in AL West-Manager-Ken Macha||Won ALDS vs. Minnesota Twins, 3-0. Lost ALCS vs. Detroit Tigers, 0-4.|
|2007||Oakland Athletics||76-86||.469||3rd in AL West-Manager-Bob Geren|
|2008||Oakland Athletics||75-86||.466||3rd in AL West|
The Spring Training Facility in Phoenix AZ has been the home of the Oakland A's since 1982.
For a list of former A's players/prospects still active in Major League Baseball, see List of former A's players/prospects (active).
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No A's player from the Philadelphia era has his number retired by the organization. Though Jackson and Hunter played small portions of their careers in Kansas City, no player that played the majority of his years in the Kansas City era has his number retired either. As of 2007, the A's have retired only the numbers of members of the Hall of Fame that played large portions of their careers in Oakland.
Mack, Foxy, Grove and Cochrane have also been inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
As of 2007, the Athletics' flagship radio station is KFRC-FM 106.9 FM, a San Francisco station owned by CBS Radio whose format is oldies-based. Games are simulcast by sister station KYCY 1550 AM, which is transitioning from a station based on listener-supplied content to a mainstream hot talk station. The current announcing team is Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo.
Television coverage is split between KICU, a San Jose based independent station, and CSN Bay Area (formerly FSN Bay Area). Some A's games air on an alternate feed of CSN, called CSN Plus (formerly FSN Plus), if the main channel shows a San Francisco Giants, Golden State Warriors, or San Jose Sharks game at the same time. The selection is basis of the games' importance, in which playoff games are featured on the main channel. On TV, Glen Kuiper and Tim Roye take turns with play-by-play, and Ray Fosse provides color commentary. Fosse also does color commentary on the radio when the A's are not on TV, or the game is on Fox or ESPN. Fosse also does play by play on the radio during Spring training games.
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